Multi-cultural families in Korea

One of the challenges that people face who are married to someone of a different culture is language.

One Korean friend is married to a woman born in another country who does not speak Korean.  They communicate in English, a second language for both of them.  Their three year old son is growing up with three languages spoken in the house.  He speaks one language to his father, another to his mother.  Trilingual at age 3.

Will the child have trouble in school because of language confusion?  Will the mother learn Korean?  How will Mom help her son with homework if she doesn’t speak Korean? Should she continue to speak her native language with her son so he can preserve his ties to his mother’s country?  Who will speak to the child’s teachers?

Can a mother who works with all English speakers make Korean friends so she can practice conversation?  Where does a busy working mother find time to become fluent in a third language?  Certainly it adds another complication to adjusting to a new country with different culture if you don’t know the language.  Even grocery shopping is hard if you don’t speak the language, so extra effort must go into many day to day tasks.

The Seoul Dasom School opened to help multicultural students. (1)  Dasom means love. EBS created a website for multicultural families that includes language learning programs for children.  There are also volunteer organizations that provide tutoring for students.

International marriages are on the rise in Korea.   International marriages now make up more than 13% of all marriages in Korea. (2) Most are South Korean men marrying foreign women.

Foreigners looking to marry South Koreans now must show they can communicate with each other (3). Those applying for a resident-by-marriage visa must pass a government-approved Korean language proficiency test.  Language and cultural differences are cited as the main reasons for problems in international marriages.

It takes open-mindedness, flexibility, emotional stability, communication, and strong family ties to overcome issues that arise in a marriage.  A sense of humor helps too.

You can read more about international marriages in Korea here:
(1) South Korea Opens Multicultural High School, PRI, 20 March, 2012
Dasom Embraces Biracial Students, Korea Times, 22 Jan 2014
(2) Increase in Intercultural Marriage Korea 4 Expats
(3) South Korea Tightens Rules on Marriage to Foreigners, Wall Street Journal, 7 Feb 2014
International Marriage in Korea Part I Part II Part III Korea Herald, 29 May 2014
Interracial Marriage Wikipedia
Korea Greets a New Era of Multiculturalism The Korea Herald, 3 August 2006
National Institute for International Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea
Seoul Youth Center for Cultural Exchange HOPE

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